Ecology Action Centre Reacts to Province Removing Owls Head from Protected Plan

CBC Radio
Information Morning
January 10, 2020

The “globally rare” ecosystem on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore was quietly removed from the provincial government’s protected parks plan. Karen McKendry, Wilderness Outreach Coordinator at Ecology Action Centre, spoke with host Portia Clark. We also heard from Environment Minister Gordon Wilson.

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Karen McKendry from the Ecology Action Centre understands that “people are concerned both about the process and the particular piece of Crown land.” Indeed, there has been strong public opposition to the delisting of the property, which was done in a secretive way. Citizens are also concerned that the ecological values of the site aren’t being protected by the provincial government.

“The lands that are in the Parks and Protected Areas Plan got in there through a vetting process, through trying to plan a system of protected areas for Nova Scotia, so it was a rigorous system, it wasn’t just any Crown land, it was some of the special, last available pieces that got in… And then that was widely consulted on with the public — in public meetings, and people wrote in — it was consulted with the Assembly of Mi’kmaq Chiefs, and so that was quite a vetting process.”

Karen McKendry, Wilderness Outreach Coordinator at Ecology Action Centre

When the Honourable Gordon Wilson — the provincial Minister of Environment — was asked what he thought, he replied, “This piece of property from my perspective was one that was not part of our plan moving forward to our 13%.”

According to McKendry, “If there are lands in there, that the Minister currently thinks, ‘maybe that we shouldn’t protect at this point in time,’ maybe we should have gone back to the public, who vetted those and say ‘these are the things we’re considering about this piece of land.’ People are angry about the process.”

It’s also worth noting that while Nova Scotia inches towards its stated goal of 13% land protection, Canada has committed to 17% land protection by the end of 2020. This is vital to protecting biodiversity, as is protecting endangered species.

McKendry emphasizes that Owls Head Park Reserve “has habitat for piping plover, which are endangered and beloved in Nova Scotia.”

Under the Endangered Species Act of Nova Scotia, she says, “core habitat, the vital sites that endangered animals need for their survival, hasn’t been defined under Nova Scotia’s Act.” It is the responsibility of the Honourable Iain Rankin, Minister of Lands and Forestry to define core habitat for all endangered species.

There’s only so many places left for piping plover,” McKendry points out.

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